Disclaimer: This story contains details of loss and grief which may be upsetting to some.
“I have two jobs. One is my career as a makeup and special effects artist in the film industry, and the other is a serving job at a local resort. I only have the side job because sometimes film jobs are a little farther apart than I’d like them to be.
One day when I was on the set of a very large TV show filming here in New Mexico, I got a call from the hospital in Vegas letting me know they were looking for a next of kin for my sister. She had been admitted to the hospital and was on life support. She had suffered a cardiac arrest, then two more at the hospital, and was unresponsive. She was suspected to be brain dead, but they couldn’t confirm until her body was stable enough to take for testing. They told me she most likely wasn’t going to come back from this and if she did she wouldn’t ‘be the same.’
I actually was worried about telling my TV makeup department head that day because it was a newer job. However, when she found out, she was incredibly supportive. She told me, ‘Go home and be with my family, do whatever you need to do. No job in this world is worth missing life over.’ I felt her support was very appropriate and she even hugged me. She asked questions out of curiosity and shared stories of hers to help be supportive. She saw me as a human, not just a worker bee and she is the queen.
When I left the job, I went home and told my mom I was going to drive to Vegas right away to be with my sister. She initially didn’t want me to go. I understood where she was coming from. She said the same thing about my dad when he died and we were allowed to go see his body to say goodbye. She said, ‘You don’t want to see her like this, this memory will be seared into your brain. You won’t remember her the way we loved her.’
I said, ‘This isn’t about me or about you. This is about her, and she absolutely will not die alone. Do not argue with me. I am going no matter if you go or not, and you will waste your breath.’ I think that hit her pretty hard. I have no idea what dying alone is like, but it’s something I don’t wish upon anybody. My mom decided to go with me that evening and we left about 1 a.m.
It’s a 9-hour drive with stops from Albuquerque. About midway through our drive, I realized I had another job and I was probably working this weekend, but I couldn’t even honestly remember if or when I was working since I had so much on my mind. I didn’t want to text her at the time because it was about 4 or 5 a.m. and I was driving. So when I stopped for gas, I let both my manager and supervisor know I wasn’t going to make it in this weekend because I was driving to Vegas to be with my dying sister.
I didn’t hear from my manager right away, but my supervisor replied with a snarky, ‘Sorry about that, but why are you letting me know 2 hours before your shift?’ I knew in that moment she thought I was lying. However, I let it slide because she was actually one of my favorite supervisors. I let her know I left super late (I was implying I was driving, and I didn’t want to wake her up in the middle of the night). She then replied again expressing some condolences, but then adding something to the extent of, ‘But it’s going to be extremely busy today with only 2 people expected to show up. It makes it harder for the workers who do show up.’
At this point, I was fuming. How dare she suggest people are going to have a hard day when I’m on my way to watch my sister die. I couldn’t believe it. She was either suggesting I was lying or literally telling me the job was more important than my dying sister. I first responded back with, ‘Again, my sister is dying. She is likely brain dead and on life support. If you are so concerned about other people having a hard day, then you can put on a waitress uniform and do the work yourself because I do not give a damn. Holy s–t, read the room.’ She didn’t have much of a response back except, ‘Thanks, Hillary.’
I had about an hour’s drive left to the hospital. All I could think about was my sister being all alone, having no visitors to check on her, and what my boss just said to me. I was sad, I was fuming, and the closer I got to the hospital the more real it all was becoming. A police officer called me about having her phone and asking me questions; it was all getting too much to handle. My mom barely could stand being there with me. She didn’t want to see her daughter like that and have it ‘seared into her memories,’ but more so she didn’t want me to have to drive alone during this emotional moment.
When I got into the room, my heart started pounding but I was calm. I’ve always been calm since I was a kid in any situation. I think it’s because I would rather think logically in high intense moments than think emotionally based. I’ve been complimented on it my whole life. I took a deep breath and step into her room. I held her hand while I waited to hear from the nurses. They still hadn’t had time to do the ‘brain death’ testing since her body couldn’t handle being off life support for a few minutes to take her down to testing. She looked peaceful. She just looked like she was asleep. So, I texted my mom to reassure her when she does come up to visit her in the room it will be okay. No horrific memory burned into her brain. Just that of peace.
I was the only person there for her while my mom had to wait in the car since we had to bring our doggies. So much was running through my mind. I wanted her to recover, but not if she’d be trapped as a vegetable her whole life. She has had such a tough life, especially since the last few years were so rough for her. I wanted peace and the best for her soul, even if it meant us losing her. I wanted her friends and family to be able to say goodbye who didn’t make it. And sadly, I was STILL thinking about my job.
I sat down and I was looking at my sister. Thinking about how much of a rock star she is, how badass she is. Looking at her cool tattoos and thinking about our insane times together. I held her hand, looked down, and remembered how it was us against the world. When my job again popped back into my head, while I was there trying to be with my sister, I just got this feeling she would want me to say ‘EFF IT!’ So I did. I sent a text to my supervisor saying, ‘I got this weird feeling from my comatose sister that I should quit because of the things you said to me,’ and I sent her a photo of me holding up her hand and flicking her off. It was proof I was there, and yes, she was in the condition I said she was.
I wanted my supervisor to take a step back and realize what she said to me and that she should never doubt another employee again when they say they have a family emergency. I smiled at my sister and the epic way I quit, and how she helped me do it. I know my sister would have LOVED it! We were crazy b—hes together, and I know she was crazy until the day she died. At the same time I sent those messages to my supervisor, I also let my manager know I quit. I told him I could no longer work under her due to her comments and this was my 0 weeks notice. He said he understood and wanted to see the messages, so I provided them.
After I got that off my chest, I was able to concentrate more on her. I found her favorite movie and played it for her as well as her favorite song. I had family and friends call her and talk into her ear. Some said their goodbyes, some encouraged her to wake up. I wanted to listen, but I gave them their privacy unless they said I could listen. I heard some beautiful words coming from those people who did call in. I even shared my last 4 LOKO with her. My mom went up to the room and was able to visit with her. She was just a wreck, but I know she is glad she went with me after all.
My supervisor later gave a half-ass apology. I never replied. The internet was even mad at her apology, saying she was gaslighting me. I was mad because she spoke of a very sad loss of hers 4 years prior, and I was just like, ‘Okay, that should have made you more understanding.’ Anyway, later my manager messaged me wanting me to call him so he could update me on the situation there. I was panicked at first – like uh-oh, what did I do?
I got the nerve to call him and his first words were, ‘How is your sister?’ I said, ‘Well, she died that weekend, but she was a hero and donated her organs saving up to 9 lives.’ I could hear his heart sink in his next words, ‘Oh no, I am so sorry.’ I believe his heart sank for not only my loss but also due to what his supervisor initially said to me. He continued, ‘I know it doesn’t mean much but I haven’t turned in your quit paperwork yet, and I wanted to let you know she [the supervisor] no longer works here, so you’re welcome to come back.’ I took a few weeks to grieve and decided to come back due to his kindness of letting me know, and accepting the way I quit. I think that’s a LOT for the manager to understand and want me to come back. So we decided I would come back, but only on-call, which makes the most sense.
I posted the story as I do on TikTok to teach life lessons. I’ve done so decently in life from learning from others. I had no idea it would open such a huge conversation because so many people have experienced this. So many employers really don’t see us as having full lives outside of work. There’s a word called ‘sonder,’ which means ‘The profound feeling of realizing that everyone, including strangers passed in the street, has a life as complex as one’s own, which they are constantly living despite one’s personal lack of awareness of it.’ Employers often see us as one-dimensional beings, just there to make them money, with the lack of awareness that we are actually people. We are not put on this world to work. We have to work to live, and we need to be there and be supported in moments when LIFE happens.
My intention was not to get the supervisor fired or force her to quit, just to have her NEVER do that to another employee. For the record, I still do care for her, I still like her, and I forgive her. I mostly hope she has moved on to another job she enjoys and I wish her the best. ”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Hillary Zinks. You can follow her journey on Instagram and TikTok. Please consider donating to her GoFundMe for funeral costs. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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